The Amygdala Diaries
by David Kellem
Mediators are challenged to guide clients through a lot of obstacles along the way to settlement. One physically small but stealthy and strong obstacle is the human amygdala. Amygdalae are almond-shaped organs in the left and right hemispheres of our brains that can subconsciously derail rational negotiation.
The amygdala, it turns out, is the root of some of our less-rational and more problematic behaviors. It has been identified as a primary organ of the paleomamillian mind - the mind of early human beings who spent their days mostly just trying to survive in a hostile world full of beasts of prey and other physical threats. The amygdala is an alarm system and an army all in one. If it senses...
Revoking the Irrevocable Trust in a Divorce - Or - Never Say Can't, Say Decant! - Part II*
Even with Pfannenstiehl behind us, the complex interplay of the irrevocable trust and divorce continues to vex practitioners. The topic du jour is decanting and divorce -- and the SJC just dove right in with Ferri v. Powell Ferri, 476 Mass. 651 (2017).
Before we go further, a quick primer. “Decanting” is the process of pouring assets from an irrevocable trust into a newly created trust. The big question at the heart of decanting and divorce: what if, during (or anticipating) a divorce, the trustee decanted the assets into a newly created trust that was, say, more...
In Massachusetts, as in most states, there is no certification or license provided by the Commonwealth certifying mediators. Under the mediator confidentiality statute, Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 233, Section 23C, mediators who have taken at least 30 hours of training and meet other requirements, have confidentiality protections in their client communications. However, the trainings are not monitored by the Commonwealth and a trained mediator is not the same as a certified mediator.
Some private organizations do provide certification for mediators, including MCFM. If you see a mediator claiming to be certified you should ask what organization has provided their certification and what are the...
Just like any other profession, being trained as a mediator doesn't lead directly to having mediation cases. Finding mediation clients, getting experience, and building a knowledge base requires both new and experienced mediators to do things that aren't taught in the mediation training. To be an active mediator and build a practice, mediators must also learn how to run their business and how to market themselves. The simplest and first thing you can do is start telling people that you are a trained mediator.
If you want people to think of you as a mediator, then you have to make that a core part of your identity and branding. Put mediator on your business card, add it to the title of your business, and include it in your e-mail signature. If you're a member of a mediation related organization, advertise that...
Mediators rarely accompany their clients to court during their divorce hearings. Most clients don’t share their court experience with their mediators. Even when clients do report what happened in court, their recollections are always subjective, and often imprecise. Now there is an alternative.
Audio recordings and transcripts of virtually all Massachusetts court proceedings are now available to the public online, including contested and uncontested matters. Everyone: parties, lawyers, and non-lawyer mediators, may register and listen to verbatim court proceedings through a program called “For the Record” (the website with information through the Massachusetts Courts is...
A recent e-mail thread between mediators on the MCFM Board discussed the importance of sharing our favorite mediation-related books with our fellow family mediators. To that end, we are inviting you to comment on this post with a recommendation of your favorite book related to mediation or conflict resolution. John Fiske graciously agreed to start us off with a poem and three recommendations:
I hope these blurbs are good for your blog
And help us begin a real dialogue
To find the right book by hook or by crook
To strengthen your neutral and wise outlook.
1. A Guide to Divorce Mediation, Gary Friedman, Workman Publishing (1993). The book opens with a...
The Goose, the Gander and the Alimony Reform Act
[Note: to avoid a gender pretzel and to avoid offending anyone, the hypothetical clients in this piece are styled as a married couple of either or both male or female gender.]
Five years and many appellate cases later, the Alimony Reform Act (eff. March 1, 2012) (“ARA”) now has some meat on its bones. The more we work with it, however, more scenarios emerge that we had not previously considered; and we wonder if the drafters did either. One aspect we have been pondering is how critical elements of the statute address the scenario where former...
It is important that families in a dispute understand all their options and the benefits of an option like mediation. Working with the Norfolk Probate & Family Court, MCFM developed the following videos to help describe the benefits of resolving disputes through mediation and other forms of dispute resolution:
The following video describes all the options for avoiding court in probate & family disputes and their pros and cons:
For more information on available programs and approved providers click here: A Guide to Court-Connected Alternative Dispute Resolution Services - Note that MCFM is an approved mediation provider in all counties in Massachusetts.
We have also created a short version of this video focusing specifically on...
Dear Colleagues and Friends:
I am honored to have taken on the Presidency of the MCFM and hope that I can fill the shoes of Fran Whyman. They might be petite and fashionable shoes, but they carried a lot of responsibility and did so with strong and thoughtful steps. I have started my Presidency with gratitude to Fran and the rest of the past and current Board, with enthusiasm for an organization and a field that I love, and with a story.
My mother-in-law, Naomi Billow, turned 102 at the end of November. She is independent and travels alone each November from New York to Florida and back to NYC in May. She lives alone and has taken care of herself since 1970 when her husband, a physician, became ill with early onset Alzheimer’s disease and within a few years had to move to a Veteran’s Administration facility. Naomi visited him faithfully for 7 years before his death. I greatly admire her loyalty, her independence, her competence, her respect for the institution...